Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Light in the Middle of the Tunnel

“Don’t blink, this time will fly by.” “They grow up so fast.” “Enjoy every moment.” Is it just me, or do new parents hear these phrases at least once a week? The truth is, when you’re in the middle of ear infections, poopy diapers, colic, your baby tumbling down from the sitting position for the eleventeenth time, sometimes those phrases fall on deaf ears. Sometimes, as I paced the floor, rocking Olivia, shushing her, singing to her, bouncing her, begging her to fall asleep, I would wish for the future. For days when she would lay her head on her pillow in her big girl bed, fresh faced from her bath, holding her beloved lovey of the moment, snuggle in for a hug after a bedtime story and BAM, be out like a light. I’m pretty sure there are a myriad of problems with this vision, but let me start with the one that jumps up and punches me in the gut. Wishing away my baby’s life? What the what?!

I’m pretty sure it’s not just me who has struggled out of sleep in the middle of the night to nurse a baby and wondered when I’ll have a full nights rest again. I’m sure it’s not just me who wonders when on earth this little one will be able to play independently for, oh, say five minutes, so I can throw together a dinner more complicated than frozen pizza. And I’m sure it’s not just me who becomes wracked with guilt after such thoughts. So I hope this can be an encouragement. Yes, time DOES fly by. Before we know it, we’ll be sitting at a high school graduation, watching our “baby” accept their diploma, while the tears that fall from our eyes reflect memories of their tiny snuggles, their first giggle, those sweet moments in the middle of the night while we nursed them back to sleep. OK, maybe high school graduation is a bit extreme, but I can tell you from very recent experience, that I simply can’t believe my 14 month old girl is now sleeping in her crib ALL.NIGHT.LONG. (Nevermind the fact that she still wakes up in the middle of the night and I still get up to rock her, the point is she is weaned and our bed now only contains two people instead of three.) Sure, I came to a point where I was not just complacent about rocking her, nursing her, getting up with her, multiple times at night, I was content to do so. I was cherishing those moments. Nevertheless, there were plenty of moments of despair in my sleep deprived state, or in the back of my mind when my to-do list seemed to pour out of my head and wrap itself around the nursery, darkening the soft glow of the pink nightlight and stealing away my happy cuddles. And yet, here we are, only 14 months in, and that transition has happened. Looking back, it seems like it was so FAST. Already my memories of exhaustion and despair are buried by the grief of passing through a stage that will never happen again. Isn’t if funny how our minds do that? Like, there are women out there who have babies with NO PAIN MEDS and then DO IT AGAIN! Um, hello crazy minds and your sneaky ways.
I attribute part of the desire to speed time up to being a first time mom. When you’ve never had a baby before, all the harder stages seem like they will last forever. You have no gauge that tells you, “wait a minute, Mama, just hang in there, this will pass, you can do it.” It’s too hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel from the dark middle you feel like you’ll be in forever. It’s not until it’s too late, when the stage is over, that you’re able to look back through the end and see that there was light shining the whole time, you were just too caught up to see it. The light that shone through the bags under your eyes, the unwashed dishes, the unfolded diapers that was illuminating the precious parts of those stages. The extra snuggles, the special bonding, your baby getting to hear the sweets notes of soft lullaby’s, the tiny fingers clutching your arm, the sweaty cheek against your heart. Hear me, Mama. If you have come through the tunnel of a hard stage and didn’t see the light until you were through it, do NOT succumb to guilt. You did your best! You were valiant as you tried to figure out how to stay sane while cherishing your child in the midst of a difficult period. Your baby felt your love in her soul! And you learned much. Both of you did! You got through it together, no matter how often you wondered when things would change. And now you know, you can do it!” In parenting, no matter the age or stage of your child, there will always be tunnels. But isn’t it sweet knowing that it probably isn’t as long or as dark as you think at first. There is light shining through it before you even get there! Let your baby (or toddler, or tween, or teenager) help you see the light in the beginning, so that while you might not enjoy the whole tunnel, you can at least take heart and know that there are enjoyable moments smack dab in the middle of it, and you will find them!

I’ve said before that sometimes I feel like my reflections on motherhood are all about the hard parts. I don’t want it to seem like it’s been one challenge after another, with none of the amazing, blissful, exciting, precious times, too. That is not the case whatsoever! Sometimes it seems like the hard parts are those less talked about, though. And there is a longing in this mama’s soul to reach out to other mama’s and tell them that no matter how often or rare the hard parts are, you are not alone! Whether your child slept through the night from a few weeks old, or whether you are still nursing your big toddler at 2 AM. Whether you have an “easy baby” from the start or had to go through colic or are in the middle of terrible twos or teenage angst. Whether your twelve year old wants to spend every waking moment with you because she loves you so much or you’re sitting up at midnight waiting for your past-curfew son to walk through the door. You are not alone.

We all know there are good times. We can recite all the precious things about our children and the reasons we love being mothers. The moments that feel like glimpses of heaven. Those things are written on our hearts. The good outweighs the difficult by elephants and rhinos! But when the challenges are casting shadows in your nursery or over your dinner table, take heart. Give your baby an extra squeeze. Take a deep breath with your nose right in her neck and soak up her baby smell. Sit next to your teenage son on the couch while you watch yet another action movie and memorize his long lashes, his square jaw. And know, this too shall pass, and when it does, you will both be stronger, wiser, and more entwined in each other’s hearts.


Cheryl said...

I'm 7.5 years into this parenting "gig" and still have to remind myself regularly to slow down and enjoy them. Parenting IS hard, but it seems well worth it to this point. Thanks for always writing so honestly Terri!

mom said...

Ter, Are you sure you aren't a professional writer in disguise? I must confess I cried a little reading this blog. I can relate to this....
"We can recite all the precious things about our children and the reasons we love being mothers. The moments that feel like glimpses of heaven. Those things are written on our hearts." (And continue throughout their lives.) :-)
Love you.